Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Steins;Gate 0 Part One
Anime Studio: White Fox
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Sci-Fi / Thriller
Released: July 29th, 2018
Language: Japanese / English
Extras: Steins;Gate 23ß OVA, Ep 2 Video Commentary, Ep 8 commentary, promo video, clean OP and ED.
Okabe couldn’t save her. Plagued by the guilt, his only solace lies with academia and with his friends who have been by his side from the start. But nothing’s ever easy. While Okabe struggles to leave his traumas in the past, he meets a familiar-faced AI that re-opens old wounds and could lead to a terrifying new future.
The original Steins;Gate was a phenomenal series. It’s one that amassed a large following very quickly due to its memorable characters, interesting ideas, and stylish animation. Whether a fan of the visual novel on which it was based or not, people loved. So, coming into Steins;Gate Zero, there’s an inherent risk that it will struggle to live up to that original run. Whether this turns out to be the case for you or not will depend entirely on what you expect from this release.
Start with the OVA and you can see exactly where this story splits off from the original season, and that really sets the tone for things going forward. Okabe fails to save Kurisu and, rather than try again, he gives up. This immediately sends the former self-styled mad professor into a far more muted existence. He’s low, and the bombast of his lifestyle is gone, replaced by a more mundane university life. Yet the intelligence and willingness to explore science still remain. I really liked that with Okabe here. He’s both so similar and so different to his alternate world-line counterpart that it’s easy to pick up on the familiar aspects while still enjoying the differences.
Meanwhile, the rest of the returning cast are much the same. The fun of the original series is still there for them – such as Ferris and Luka freaking out at the prospect of Okabe dating someone when they reunite – but their paths have taken different turns. Mayuri and Suzuha take center stage when needed, and that focus is appreciated. I hadn’t realized how much I missed Mayuri’s doo-doo-doo catchphrase until now. And the mix of drive and desperation that Suzuha possesses is such a wonderful way to push the impending-war part of the story forward. Throw in that her future Dad is still such a likable character, and everything is set up nicely.
The new characters are also a nice bunch, if somewhat limited in use in this part of the release. Amadeus, the AI built from Kurisu’s memories is perhaps the most interesting. She’s both a useful focus for Okabe and a reminder of his failure, leaving them with a complicated relationship. Maho is, in some ways, designed to fill Kurisu’s role in the series in terms of the science stuff. She has a few tsundere tendencies too, adding to the harem undertone of the franchise. Dr. Leskinen is playing comic relief in some ways, but given his position, I do expect there to be more to him than this come the end of the series. The one that intrigues me the most is perhaps Kagiri though; she’s an amnesiac girl with a physical resemblance for Kurisu, and is Mayuri’s adopted daughter in the war-torn future. By the end of this half of the season, she is only just getting her memories back.
The story overall is certainly as intriguing as the original series, and by the end of this half, we’re diving headlong into the familiar need to stop the future war. Due to being an alternate world-line though, things take a different route, with previous character roles appearing to be different. The same feel is there at times, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this will be more of the same. There is a great deal of focus given to Okabe’s struggles, especially when he is placed in a position where he must choose to sacrifice someone. In that regard, much of these two discs feel like a character study of an Okabe that failed, set against the backdrop of the consequences of time travel.
Aesthetically speaking, White Fox have done a great job here. The animation is smooth, the new character designs fit perfectly alongside the old ones, and it remains consistent throughout. Meanwhile, the soundtrack provides plenty of fitting musical moments, as well as some great performances from both the sub and dub voice cast.
Meanwhile, the limited edition version not only contains both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the release, but a whole bunch of extras including art cards, and art book, and more! It’s a fantastic release for collectors.
Overall, this is a wonderful release. To a degree, I would say that it does rely on you having seen the original series and not be set on having more of the same. You can absolutely watch Steins;Gate Zero without having seen Steins;Gate, but the characters and longstanding plot points won’t be familiar, which could lead to confusion. Without that connection, it would be hard to appreciate the clear difference in fate here. At the same time, if you want nothing more than another run-through of the original series, the differences may disappoint. If you go in with an open mind though and embrace the way things could have gone, Steins;Gate Zero is an absolute blast, chock full of compelling characters. This gets a strong 4 out of 5.